Screenplay by Paul Dini.
The Hulks are finally back on Earth. After inserting several narrative elements into previous episodes, everything comes together to give Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. a way home through a wormhole, which projects them a thousand years into the future, where we meet this week’s villain, who has a rod that can transmute beings into a devolved form, rendering them into a previous state of existence by reversing their evolution. As with most episodes, this is an interesting concept, given the main characters are hulking beasts who make points by pounding them in.
And yet – and this is one of my most common criticisms – the concept’s execution is where it fails. It’s not that I don’t like interesting concepts, because I do, but concepts are only ideas, and narrative needs more than ideas to work. That sounds like a classy statement to make for a show about wrestling heroes punching beastly villains, but it’s because that show is mostly entertaining to watch because of the narrative the violence facilitates. And it’s also not that I don’t like violence either, because this show manages to balance it out with humorous characters. And so this episode would normally work, but because of the presence of that concept, a new level is brought to it that gives the episode more to execute. Now there’s nothing wrong with ambition, because from ambition comes failure, and from failure comes improvement, and from improvement comes success. Without ambition, there’s no point to making anything. So it’s good that this episode is being ambitious, but it does so in a very unfulfilling way.
The first part works just fine – you take these characters, and you add a new element to experiment with them all in the same way. It’s like a science test, where only one variable is changed for it to actually mean anything. So in this case, we have devolution occurring – what are these characters like when they’re devolved to a primitive state? This is an interesting question, with just as interesting an answer, but after that, there’s still certain things required to happen. Were those things not to happen, this episode would just be interconnected scenes without a beginning, middle or end. And this episode definitely does have those three stages, yet that’s also what makes the sum lesser than its parts. The sights of the main characters cavorting about in their own, individual way, but still in the style of their own characters shows that Dini knows what he’s doing. But as soon as we see this, we have to get a conclusion, and the conclusion is just not good at all.
There’s the typical “bad guy speech”, in which he blurts out all his plans in order to reveal the weakness in them. And, having taken Hulk and modified him into some new creature with wings (even though there was no indication he was capable of that so far), he then tells Hulk his own physical weaknesses, as if he’s trying to get himself caught. Luckily, it’s quite rushed, so it doesn’t really matter. At least the narrative itself seems to understand its own problems and immediately glosses over them.
The concept was interesting, and the result was even more interesting, but everything surrounding them made the episode seem like an excuse to do those things, rather than to integrate them into some sort of greater piece – something previous episodes have demonstrated an ability to do.
Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.: Future Shock – entertaining concept execution, lackluster story 4/10.